Nov 3, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; The floor is red for the NBA In-Season Tournament during the first half of the game between the Chicago Bulls and the Brooklyn Nets at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Netflix will finally dip their toes into the live sports world when they televise the Netflix Cup, an exhibition golf event featuring stars from two of their successful sports documentary series. Formula 1 drivers featured in Drive to Survive will partner with PGA Tour golfers featured in Full Swing as a crossover event. It’s not quite the huge splash into live sports that competitors like Apple, Amazon, and YouTube have made with major packages. But an opportunity could exist for Netflix to finally make their move.

The streamer reportedly has interest in a rights package around the new In-Season Tournament in the NBA. But not just the live rights to the tournament games, but in true Netflix fashion, also a documentary series that would revolve around the tournament.

Via Sports Business Journal:

Netflix has expressed some interest in picking up the live-game rights to the NBA’s In-Season Tournament, per sources.

One idea being bounced around Netflix HQ has the streaming giant creating a docuseries around the NBA’s new tournament that would be similar to those that it has produced for F1 (“Drive to Survive”), golf (“Full Swing”) and tennis (“Break Point”). Netflix’s pitch would be that it would use that kind of programming to promote the live games in the In-Season Tournament.

It’s still way too early in the NBA’s negotiating process to know if Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos is serious about making such a big splash in live sports rights. After all, the league’s 45-day exclusive negotiating window with ESPN and Turner doesn’t start until March 9, which means that we’re still months away from serious talks.

But CNBC’s Alex Sherman reported last month that Netflix execs had warmed to the idea of buying NBA rights after years of publicly dismissing getting into the sports media market. This type of deal — a small package of games that it can promote with original programming — appears to be a way for Netflix to get into live sports. A package that it can own, like the In-Season Tournament, looks to be more attractive for Netflix execs than being one of several outlets carrying a game-of-the-week or playoff games.

The NBA’s In-Season Tournament has certainly been a unique experience thus far. ESPN’s ratings for the games have actually done well, which indicates some interest in the competition. But the complex group stage format with regular season games doubling as tournament games probably still has even diehard fans struggling to understand the concept. And then there are the wild, colorful, futuristic court designs that certainly succeed in making the games stand out as not your run of the mill November NBA contests.

If the NBA could create a standalone package for a platform, it would further their objective of amplifying their standing on the calendar. And knowing what Netflix has done with sports documentaries, their creative side could tell a story that helps make the tournament matter, even though there are still many skeptics that think of it as nothing more than a gimmick. Even though we won’t know for several months if Netflix and the NBA are serious about partnering together, it’s an intriguing option for the Association.

[Sports Business Journal]